Technology helps empower women
NEW technology had “brought the bank” to millions of lowincome women in a revolution that could help drive economic growth, Mary Ellen Iskenderian, the president of Women’s World Banking, said yesterday. She said women in developing countries were embracing the use of cellphones, ATMs and point-ofsale terminals. About 2.8 billion people worldwide did not have a bank account, Iskenderian said, and poor women, living on $2 (R22) a day or less, were 28 percent less likely to have a bank account than men. Iskenderian said data showed women were better than men at paying off loans, that they deposited money frequently and left it in the bank for longer. “A savings account under a woman’s name means that if she suffers domestic abuse, she has the safety net to leave her husband in the knowledge that she can provide for herself.” She said her organisation wanted to tackle a bias against giving women larger loans, and to work to overhaul financial institutions’ policies to ensure fewer low-income women were left behind. – Reuters,
GIVE women the same access to land, credit, advice and markets as men, and they could increase yields on their farms by more than 20 percent, boosting total global agricultural output by up to 4 percent, a leading land rights researcher said.
Women produce nearly half of the food grown in the developing world, yet women farmers receive only 5 percent of all agricultural extension services globally – including credit, training, marketing and research, according to the UN Food and Agricultural Organisation.
If women farmers were given more resources, they could help reduce the number of hungry people in the world by up to 150 million, according to the UN World Food Programme.
For years, campaigners have argued for more investment in women farmers, and better recognition of their land rights.
Elisa Scalise, director of the Landesa Center for Women’s Land Rights, said in many countries and regions, the situation for women farmers had improved. “The global trend is positive,” Scalise said in an interview.
“Regional bodies and national governments are at least talking about women’s land rights now, and just 5 to 10 years ago this was not the case,” she said before a debate on access to land.
For example, Kenya used its 2010 constitution to provide protection for female property rights.
In China, where women are estimated to account for more than 70 percent of the agricultural workforce, the need to protect women’s land rights was, for the first time in modern history, included in a major policy document released earlier this year, Scalise said.
Citing research that showed land did better under the management of women farmers, she said in Vietnam capital investment in rural areas was higher when women hold land title, and in Rwanda, female- headed households were more likely to invest in soil conservation measures.
Landesa says women who own land have 3.8 times more income than those who don’t, their children are 33 percent less likely to be severely underweight, and they are eight times less likely to face domestic violence. Yet women are still battling to secure their land rights.
Of 143 countries surveyed by the World Bank earlier this year, 37 still have discriminatory land laws in place.
Changing this needs to “start with understanding that land rights are part of a cultural system, and that cultural systems also define gender roles,” Scalise said. “That link is critical.”
Having a strong champion in government helps, she said. – Reuters
A leading rights researcher says women can boost total global agricultural output by up to 4 percent.